Independence Day 2017: Disruption, Destruction, and Distraction

“Power can be very addictive, and it can be corrosive. And it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.”
 — George W. Bush, 2017

Disruption can be for better for worse. Luckily for me, the two major disruptions in my life turned out for the better.

In 1968, at age 23, I was sent to Vietnam as a soldier in Military Intelligence — a rather significant disruption in my safe and comfortable life up until then.

I have described the details of that disruption in previous posts. In short, I left the United States as a solid Republican and returned home as a committed Democrat. For me that was definitely a “for better” outcome.

Title: Interruption | Author: Adam Meek | Source: Flickr | License: CC BY 2.0
Title: Interuption | Author: Adam Meek | Source: Flickr | License: CC BY 2.0

In 1988, married with two children, I moved my family from Basking Ridge, New Jersey where we were all living a happy and carefree life surrounded by lots of friends, to Toronto, Canada. I had accepted an exciting job with Northern Telecom. My wife gave up her cherished teaching job, and my 13-year-old daughter gave up “the best friends she would ever have.” Needless to say, I was not a very popular husband or father. As painful and disorienting as it was, my wife sucked it up and supported the move. My younger daughter loved the idea of having Mom at home full time to take her to the park and to the local bakery. My 13-year-old threw a fit.

As it turned out, my older daughter was admitted to a terrific school that totally transformed her learning experience. I’m convinced that her one year in Toronto set her up to be a highly accomplished student throughout high school and college. Yes, after one year, my family returned to the states and I ground out a second year in Toronto before returning home. As much angst as this disruption caused, however, the outcomes gave a significant boost to my career and provided a new perspective for my family.

Not all disruptions turn out so rosy for everyone involved. For example, globalization and the rapid advance of technology are major causes of business disruption in which some people win big and some people lose badly. Most changes are disruptive, but they require us to adapt, to reflect, and to re-think our views and values.

Disruption is defined as a forcible separation, a splitting, or breaking.

On this Independence Day, we need to recognize the Revolutionary War as a major disruption that resulted in creation of our nation.

And, while the Civil War was terribly disruptive, it ended up uniting us — at least on paper.

SCOTUS APRIL 2015 LGBTQ 54663 | Author: Ted Eytan
SCOTUS APRIL 2015 LGBTQ 54663 | Author: Ted Eytan | Source: Flickr | License: CC BY-SA 2.0

There are many other examples as well in which disruption results in both negative and positive outcomes: Divorce is a disruptive event in the life of a family. While there are often times that all parties emerge healthier as a result of a divorce, there are also many times that the trauma lingers on for everyone involved. Gay marriage challenged us to expand our view of loving relationships, but many LGBTQ folks had to endure discrimination and persevere through the resistance. Immigration was the fuel that powered the most innovative and productive society on earth, but many native workers were displaced. The internet provided easy and equal access to the world’s information but also provided an efficient vehicle for pornography and the sex trade. Yes, disruption can be for better or for worse.

Destruction is different than disruption.

One of my core parenting principles was to keep my kids away from destructive influences. That was easier to do 30 years ago than it is now. My wife and I always hosted parties at our house (no alcohol or drugs allowed), we encouraged our kids to join healthy groups, and we offered our home as a place where kids could come to hang out.

Teabowl | Artist: Hon'ami Kōetsu (Japanese, 1558–1637) | Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art | License: CC0
“Kintsugi…also known as Kintsukuroi (“golden repair”), is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold…As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.” -Wikipedia | Teabowl | Artist: Hon’ami Kōetsu (Japanese, 1558–1637) | Source: The Met
Destruction is defined as an action or process of causing so much damage to something that it no longer exists or cannot be repaired.

The word is usually associated with demolition, wrecking, bombing, obliteration, elimination, or eradication. It is the cause of someone or something’s ruin. We tried to keep our kids from destroying themselves or others to the best of our ability. I think we did pretty well.

I’m afraid the current administration has gone beyond disruption and is bordering on destruction.

I’m worried that the share of citizens among us who voted for disruption are getting more than they bargained for.

I understand the need for change. People were suffering and politicians of both parties weren’t listening. Congress was gridlocked. Meanwhile, the top 20% of wage earners were doing quite nicely. Trump was very clever in tapping into the anger and hostility that was simmering in the “left behind” but ignored by politicians. It boiled over in unanticipated ways.

But let’s not forget the 1% who are not only immune from any disruption or destruction, but they are also not distracted by anything that would keep them from accumulating more and more. The one percenters are essentially the oligarchs running the country. The Congress and President are merely pieces on their chess board.

The Oligarchs and the President are masters of distraction.

The more they distract, the less we pay attention to the many acts of destruction going on behind closed doors and the better able they are to consolidate their power and wealth. As long as the world is preoccupied with Trump’s tweets, shenanigans, and marketing campaigns, we lose focus on what really matters. Quite simply, we are too distracted to be talking about what we need to be talking about.

Title: egyptian government | Author: rainchurch
Title: egyptian government | Author: rainchurch | Source: Flickr | License: CC BY-SA 2.0

In a nutshell, 62 million voters wanted disruption. Unfortunately, we are all witnessing destruction instead. And this is not the creative destruction described by economists. Joseph Schumpeter coined the seemingly paradoxical term “creative destruction” as a disruptive way of delivering progress. The theory is that opening up new markets may destroy old ones but inevitably create new ones.

Schumpeter described capitalism as the “perennial gale of creative destruction.”

For me, the only things really worthy of destruction are our illusions about the world and our delusions about ourselves.

There is nothing creative or positive about the destruction being attempted by this administration. In a few short months, the Trump administration has proposed legislation and signed executive orders that not only could destroy the tangible foundations of our society, but also destroy intangible values. Trump and his Republican sycophants are on a path to destroy what has made America great.

On the more tangible side, he and his minions are attempting to: Ignore core constitutional principles such as the Emoluments clause; eliminate essential health care for millions of Americans; eradicate the US leadership position in the world; obliterate environmental and regulatory protections; wreak havoc with the criminal justice system by increasing privatization and incarceration; ruin long-standing relationships with foreign allies; demolish funding for medical research and the arts; and undermine public education.

Sounds like destruction to me.

On the intangible side, however, the damage could even be greater.

With their words and actions, the Trump administration is destroying the values on which this country was founded:

Harmony, Diplomacy, Dignity, Trust, Civility, Respect, Integrity, Innovation, Interdependence, and Quality.

While I appreciate the fact that the actions taken against minorities over the course of our history have inexcusably violated most of those values, they do represent the intention of the founders.

Disruption, at least, has the potential for good. Destruction is just destruction — it tears down without any redeeming qualities. Might I suggest, Mr. Trump, that you focus your destructive impulses on ISIL instead of on institutions that have served us imperfectly but well. I would support that effort.

These destructive acts and intentions need to be countered with non-violent, peaceful resistance. Engaging in acts of destruction in reaction to this democratically elected President is an egregious mistake. Oskar Eustice, the Director of the Public Theatre in NYC, recently said,

“No one owns the truth; we all own the culture.”

I couldn’t agree more. We all need to be less righteous and reactive and more responsible in creating a culture of harmony, peace, and interdependence.

We need to stay focused and not get distracted by tweets and marketing ploys. May we find fierce AND peaceful ways of resisting the potentially destructive actions this administration is pushing. May we organize powerfully to unseat those Congressman in the pockets of the powerful to reclaim the House and Senate in 2018.

Then, let’s hope that the Trump presidency will turn out to be a disruption that inspired a transformation in consciousness instead of a destruction of what we hold most dear.

Let’s not let the self-imposed Trump disruptions distract us from the oligarch’s orchestrated destruction.

And, finally, how about we re-name this July 4th holiday from Independence Day to Interdependence Day.

Instead of devoting our lives to getting as much as we can for ourselves, let’s adopt a new attitude of interdependence in which we are all actively seeking ways to help each other succeed.

Originally published at Perspectives & Possibilities.